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Talc, like asbestos, is a silicate that has been studied in relation to cancer risk. Several studies conducted over the past 25 years found an association between perineal talc powders and ovarian cancer. The summary relative risk is about 1.3 (95% confidence intervals 1.2–1.5) and these data have been interpreted as supporting a causal role. In this review article, we discuss the chemical and morphological features of talc and asbestos, and explain why despite their similar chemical classification talc does not possess asbestos-like carcinogenic properties. The heterogeneity in the perineal dusting studies has raised important concerns over the validity of the exposure measurements, and the lack of a consistent dose–response effect limits making causal inferences. Perhaps more importantly, whereas it is unknown whether external talc dust enters the female reproductive tract, measures of internal talc exposure such as talc-dusted diaphragms and latex condoms show no relationship with ovarian cancer risk. In addition, the therapeutic use of high dose cosmetic grade talc for pleurodesis has not been shown to cause cancer in patients receiving these treatment modalities. Talc is not genotoxic. Mechanistic, pathology and animal model studies have not found evidence for a carcinogenic effect. In summary, these data collectively do not indicate that cosmetic talc causes ovarian cancer.